I have a great respect for Spanish directors and their films. J.A. Bayona and The Orphanage, Guillermo del Toro and Pan’s Labryinth, Jaume Balaguero/Paco Plaza and REC (U.S. version – Quarantine). And now I can say Alejandro Amenabar and The Others. This film has a chilling take on demons/poltergeists/ghosts and the like. Set back in a time period where ghosts would have been an issue (WWII), this movie artfully uses fog as an extension of ghosts and beings that are not of this world. Transported through this fog, we find an ethereal feel and place where ghosts would most likely dwell.
But I was afraid to watch this movie for a long time. Do you wanna know why?
That is exactly why. The last few seconds of that trailer frightened me back when I was 11. And I know I was a young ‘un, but this movie chilled me somehow. I hadn’t seen that many horror movies and I was naive in the horror department in general. That young girl’s voice and ancient figure beneath the veil haunted my dreams for years. And now, I sat down and forced myself to watch it. Conquering fears and writing blogs. I should mark that off my bucket list.
The Others is a story about a secluded English family and their hardships without a father figure during the end of WWII. Grace Stewart (Nicole Kidman) is a strict and God fearing mother who feels it is necessary for her children to strictly follow the word of God. But there’s a problem. Her children cannot be exposed to natural light. (If that’s a real disease… didn’t check.) Anne (Alakina Mann) and Nicholas (James Bentley) are
They’re like cute vampires. They can’t see light.
two sick children who have no hopes of seeing the outside world. But the otherworld has come to them. In the form of haunting ghosts.
With a new cleaning and housekeeping staff hired, Grace hopes to make things easier on the children with such a trying lifestyle. Bertha Mills (Fionnulla Flanagan) runs the house with her mute charge, Lydia (Elaine Cassidy), and the elderly garden keeper, Mr. Tuttle (Eric Sykes). With strange occurrences and Anne constantly seeing a young boy and old woman, Grace fears for her own children and wishes her husband were back and knew what to do.
A desperate mother.
What I found interesting that characterizes this movie is a sense/loss of innocence. The children are quite ignorant and innocent in their knowledge of the outside world, especially during a time of war. Their mother’s faith doesn’t waiver while their own teachings are questioned by themselves at all times. This movie seems to question God at the same time that it affirms ghosts and another plane of existence. The whole movie itself is an early 2000’s examination of religion and whether or not it is a viable means of explanation. It prodded it (to an exhausted point I found to be too overzealous) and wouldn’t leave it alone, even at the end.
Nicole Kidman gives a very mean and zealous performance as the mother in this film, a character who would do anything to protect her children from a heathen and sinful world. She escalates at quite a nice and even pace into hysteria (as I’m sure was intended) and leaves you questioning her merit and faith by the end. I also enjoyed Christopher Eccleston (the crazed military leader in 28 Days Later) and his role as the crestfallen husband returned from war. His haunting performance toned the film in a very depressing way that
Haunts. My. Dreams.
characterized a lot of soldier’s feelings after WWII. He wasn’t in it for much, but it was just enough. And Fionnula Flanagan was a fantastic caring/aloof housekeeper who comes off as creepy and nurturing at the same time.
I know you’re there…
After all was said and done in the film, and a lot was, I was overall impressed with the movie. It was done in a very minimal way with one location and a very haunting house. Old style houses like the one in the film from the early 1900’s (or earlier, I wasn’t sure) give me the creeps. The old pictures, the old furniture and dusty feel always have given me the creeps, just knowing someone had to have died in the house. That’s another thing. I really enjoyed the mention of photographing the dead and how that used to be a common practice in order to capture the soul of the person so they may live on. The overall old feel and simplistic nature of horror in the film came from a very human place. Dying and the afterlife, ghosts and hauntings in old houses in something we all are unsure about. And something we can’t explain. Very well done for a Spanish film with no Spanish spoken. 7.7 out of 10.
I gotta tell you, I’m a sucker for exorcist/devil related films. Any horror movie that tries new ways to prove the Devil walks the earth, I’m on board with believing it. These movies are usually more frightening than gore/slasher/paranormal films. Why? There are a lot of people out there who pray for their immortal souls. Why? Because demons and the Devil himself walk among us, waiting to corrupt us and enter our bodies. In The Rite’s case, no human being is an exception. We are all judge and condemned by spiritual forces. By God himself.
Now, I’m a realist. But I love losing myself in movies like this. Any preacher/demon interaction scenes give me goosebumps.
Colin O'Donoghue. Didn't know he was Irish...
A good shaking of the faith scene here and there is good too. And I love directors/writers who push the boundaries on exactly what it means to be possessed. Different symbolical entities that manifest themselves in unspeakable ways are always something of an interest of mine. Without a strong biblical background, I love the ways the Bible is used to push the envelope with demons and what they can do on a mortal plane.
But anyways, enough of my obsession with the possessed. This movie follows the religious experiences of one Michael Kovak (Colin O’Donoghue). I’ve not seen this guy in any other films, but I was quite impressed with his “I don’t believe in faith” performance and the scientific approach he took. But Michael has two options in his father Istvan’s (Rutger Hauer) eyes. He can either pursue the life of a mortician or that of a priest/preacher. Choosing the less morbid/path his father didn’t choose, Michael begins his training as a priest.
Michael's first experience with an exorcism.
But his faith has never taken any form in Michael. And so Michael’s religious teacher, Father Matthew (Toby Jones) (Great little performance from a great English actor.) suggests Michael take an exorcism class in Italy. It is here that, with no faith in Father Xavier’s (Ciaran Hinds) teaching, is asked to seek the exorcistic teachings of Father Lucas Trevant (Anthony Hopkins). And with this, Michael is shown the tricks of the Devil, and the demons in himself he must conquer.
Now, I need to extoll how good Anthony Hopkins performance is. For the first half of the movie, he plays the nonchalant exorcist. This guy goes around curing people of the Devil himself, no big deal. This guy could care less about whether or not Michael believes in the Devil. He plays the carefree teacher who doesn’t care about his pupil. But then, out of nowhere, due to a shaken faith, Anthony Hopkins channels straight Hannibal Lecter. Could not believe where this came from (can’t tell). But you have to watch how amazingly evil Anthony Hopkins becomes. (Interesting note, there’s a mention of a “Welsh priest.” Coincidence that a movie based on true events would include a role with a Welsh older man? Gotta be fate, or gotta be Hopkins.)
Another little kudos for this movie: special effects. There are 3 scenes in which computer graphics are
Anthony Hopkins. Are you scared yet?
employed. That’s it. Everything else: make-up artists/actual tricks of the camera. When a movie can pull of subtle elements of horror without overdoing the special fx function, then it deserves to be noticed. I feel as if this movie was overlooked as far as horror movies go. This movie has a great balance of horror and plot. Something to watch and take stock in. And that’s worth the few intense horror scenes that’re shown. This movie almost felt like it was the prequel/setup for The Exorcist. (Michael Kovak goes to Chicago to be a priest. Coincidence?)
Pray for your sins. The Devil is coming.
Great Italy shots of Rome and Vatican City. Beautiful buildings to function as B-roll between scenes. The buildings looked (could have been?) Actual religious buildings in Vatican City. It was a great visual experience. I give credit to Mikael Hafstrom, the director of this film. Having some horror movies under his belt already, this Swede really has it down in his 13th film. So thank you, all that worked on this exorcism film. It was great. 8.8 out of 10.